Firefighter deploys shelter to escape flaming dust devils

Firefighter deploys shelter to escape flaming dust devils

14 August 2012

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USA– GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A firefighter on a massive range fire in southeastern Oregon suffered minor burns after she crawled inside her emergency fire shelter in an area overrun by swirling winds filled with fire, fire information officers said Monday.

The woman was treated Sunday evening at a hospital in Winnemucca for minor burns to a leg and forearm and minor smoke inhalation. Her name and home base were not released. The rest of her 20-person crew made it to a safety zone. The incident is under investigation, and the crew has been pulled off the fire for counseling, fire spokesman Chris Rose said.

As a precaution, the injured firefighter was being sent to a burn center in Salt Lake City for evaluation, Rose said.

The Holloway Fire has burned 525 square miles in remote and rugged country straddling the Oregon-Nevada border since it was started by lightning Aug. 6. On the Nevada side, five ranches were evacuated Sunday evening in the Kings River Valley about 10 miles southeast of Denio, fire spokeswoman Alexis West said.

Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore said evacuations were voluntary in the community of about 80 people, where green fields of irrigated alfalfa stand in contrast to the dusty brown of the surrounding hills.

Kilgore said firefighters had done a good job of forecasting which way the fire was headed, giving ranchers a chance to move their cattle out of the way of advancing flames. He had no reports of cattle killed by the fire.

Last month, wildfires killed hundreds of cattle in Oregon, Montana and Wyoming, and left thousands without adequate forage for the future.

“This is an atypical fire year based on the amount of drought we have right now,” Kilgore said. “The fire behavior is so erratic because everything is so dry. The slightest wind shift will bring embers 100 feet and spot new fires.”

In Oregon, the fire burned within five miles of the historic Whitehorse Ranch.

The fire was about half contained, and fire bosses expected to have it fully contained by Thursday. That will mean building 45 miles of fire line, fire spokeswoman Alexis West said.

The crew was digging fire line with hand tools through sage brush and grass in steep terrain near Oregon Canyon Creek, Rose said. The area is about 30 miles east of Fields, Ore. Swirling winds from a storm cell hit the fire line Sunday, driving fire in all directions and creating dust devils filled with burning debris, West said. That is when the injured firefighter deployed the shelter.

Elsewhere in Nevada, more than 1,500 firefighters were battling at least 10 wildfires, many sparked by lightning strikes from storms tracking across the northern part of the state.

About 650 firefighters fought a group of five fires known as the Bull Run Complex, which burned nearly 75 square miles about 10 miles southwest of Mountain City. The fires on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest were about 35 percent contained. Fire spokeswoman Lesli Ellis said one firefighter twisted a knee and another reported a minor eye injury.

Four structures described as storage sheds or outbuildings were destroyed outside Tuscarora, and some residents were evacuated during the weekend, while about 435 firefighters battled the Willow Fire some 40 miles north of Battle Mountain, Ellis said. The fire covered almost 68 square miles and was 80 percent contained.

A more than four-square-mile blaze, the Greenhorn Fire, near Hunter caused the Friday closure of the BLM’s California Trail Interpretive Center off Interstate 80, about eight miles west of Elko. The fire was reported 90 percent contained Monday and the facility reopened, Ellis said. Gov. Brian Sandoval said Sunday that he was asking the federal government to help fund efforts to battle the wildfires.

Three other wildfires are burning in Oregon. The Ten Mile Complex was 70 percent contained after burning 22 square miles on federal land three miles northeast of McDermitt, Nev.

The Fort Complex was 10 percent contained after burning nearly three square miles on the Klamath and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests in the Siskiyou Mountains, along the Oregon-California border. The area is about 10 miles northwest of Happy Camp, Calif.

The Buckhead Complex was 25 percent contained after burning 185 acres in the Cascade Range just north of Westfir, Ore.



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